run

run

 

run through the pain

both the ache and soreness

coursing through your legs

and also the searing flame

burning through your heart

 

run to remember

every good moment

the love, the joy

and every bad time

the heartbreak, the anger

 

and run to forget

every victory won

because they do not define us

and every failed attempt

for reasons same

~

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

 

A Restless Soul

Just over a week removed from a month-long trip across the country and back, and I feel…sluggish. I’m taking my time figuring out the next steps and just enjoying not necessarily having anything to do. I’ve gotten some writing done, tried to catch up on podcasts, and shows that I want to finish, but no real plan. Not in the short term anyway.

My desire to be back on the road is evident. I was driving today and saw one of the nearby cities on the signs overhanging the expressway and nearly kept driving. It’s a tenuous thing, balancing that need for adventure with maintaining a life. I spent so many years refusing to go near the candy store, only to allow myself in and to eat everything in the store. Now, it’s about moderation.

I’ve always had this restless soul. Only in terms of adventure, but it’s been there. And now that it’s been indulged, it inevitably leads to a follow-up question: what’s next? And short-term, I haven’t quite decided yet. I could stay in Louisville for a bit, save some money (and pay off some debt), and then head out on another adventure. It’s arguably my “safe” option. I have other reasons for wanting to stay in Louisville, but do those inspire enough in me to stay the course?

On the other hand, I could head to my preferred destination from my trip: Boise, Idaho. It’s hard to accurately describe Boise, but it was the only place on the trip that felt like a home to me. I can think of other places that might have felt that way if I hadn’t been in a mental rut, or the weather had been better, or other mitigating factors. And even if I did go, I only spent a few days in Boise. It could end up not resonating with me the way I thought, and then it’s on to the next adventure.

Either way, I wanted to make my longer-term goals location-less. Things that I could learn and do and visit that weren’t limited by where I called my home base. Because I could see a scenario where that place changes multiple times over the rest of my life. Which is ironic, because I hate moving, but I digress…

The list I came up with can be divided into two paths: a creative/work path and a physical path. I realized on this trip that I had let my fitness fall to the point that I couldn’t appreciate all that those places had to offer. Creating those goals is a plan to get back to that point.

So, first, the physical list. These are things that others have done before me, and many will do after me, but I believe that’s a tie that binds people rather than making it any less impressive. I want to visit all the National Parks. I hit a handful of them, but there’s so many more to explore, especially in Alaska. I want to complete a 100-mile ultramarathon. As difficult as that would be for my body, I want to push my mind to that point. I want to hike the Pacific Coast, John Muir, Continental Divide, and Appalachian Trails. All of these are varying degrees of length and difficulty, and all hold an important place in my mind. And last, inspired by Mike Posner, who completed it this year, I want to walk across the country, coast to coast. It’s something I thought a lot about driving down the 101 in California.

Now, the creative/work path. This list is arguably less bold, but it’s probably the things that I view more challenging. These, to me, require more intentional work to accomplish and discipline on my part. I’ve started these (kind of), but I want to write a novel and a book of poetry. I want to continue to coach girl’s basketball as well. I really love it, and it combines a lot of my interests into one. I’m not sure what level I’d want to end up at, but it helps me stay connected to a game I love and help develop the next generation of people. The last one is centered around learning. I want to learn how to make things with my hands, be it woodworking, metalworking, ceramics, blowing glass, etc. I love using my hands and am looking for another creative outlet besides writing.

I believe all of these are fundamentally achievable for me, but I’m also not tying myself to them, allowing them to become part of me. We allow so many things to influence our self-worth because we either fail or succeed. My failure or success to do a job or achieve a goal doesn’t change who I am as a person. So, maybe I’ll accomplish all of those things. Perhaps I’ll meet none of them. But for me, it’s about the pursuit.

I have a lot of time to do all of these things. Hell, I have a lot of time just to live.

~

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

 

Ideas for a Better Us

I’ve been ruminating on my trip, thinking about the lessons I took away from it. I gained a lot of new ways of viewing things, but I also recognize I have a long way to go in terms of understanding. There’s no way of knowing everything there is to know on this planet, but the more we grow, learn and understand, the closer we get to AN understanding, and the better off we all are.

In pursuit of that, I know I have to make changes in my life to allow that growth and change to occur. Namely, ridding myself of some of the toxic behaviors and generally neutral actions I have in my life. Things that add nothing to my life or take time away from things that I do deem important.

But what things do I value? That’s what I dove into and uncovered, and I think a lot of them could apply to most people. The ideas and stories aren’t always unique, but sometimes it takes hearing them in the right context to allow them to sink in. I’ve known, on a conscious and subconscious level, a lot of the things I needed to change. But it’s only now that I’m actually attempting to get serious about them. We are all on our own journey, and we’ll get there in our own time.

All that being said, here are the things that I’ve chosen to focus on going forward. I’m going to do everything I can to spend my time on these things, but I know that there will be slipups. Time’s where I drift back to the things that aren’t as valuable. But when you become aware that you’ve taken the wrong path, you backtrack and rejoin the correct route.

Consume Health

I worded this very intentionally. It started with wanting to eat healthily, something I’ve always struggled with. Even when eating a primarily plant-based diet, I ate a lot of junk food. But it goes beyond that. We consume every day with all of our senses. We taste, touch, smell, hear, and see thousands of things every day. How many of them are toxic or don’t provide value? I want to minimize that. I want to eat amazing, healthy food. I want to listen to beautiful music and high-quality podcasts. I want to see and watch stunning plays, art, films, etc.

I know these are grandiose plans I’m laying, but it’s not about being perfect. It’s about the attempt. If everyone just attempted to be better, how much better would we be?

Travel

This is a big one for me. And it doesn’t have to include travel plans across the country or internationally. I do think it includes time out in nature, much more than most of us get. Additionally, instead of your regular routine, go to a different gym, grocery or coffee shop. Experience different things. Even if you only go to one Starbucks, go to a different location. You can get your regular while experiencing something new. And that’s what this is really about: new experiences. Our bubbles don’t just exist online on social media. They include the people we encounter, the places we visit and the businesses we support. If we open up to these new experiences, how much can we learn?

Connect with Good Energy

All of that being said, we should use our intuition to connect with good energy. This is different because sometimes good energy can make us uncomfortable. There are many people I’ve met and become close to that I value for that reason. They push me out of my comfort zones and have allowed me to go further. Experiences I never would have had otherwise were opened up by choosing to be around their good energy. Good energy will look different for everyone, but if you’re listening to yourself when you’re around people and in different or new situations, you’ll know what it feels like.

Physical Effort

A lot of times, people conflate being physical with going to the gym or doing what most people deem as “exercise”. Putting that kind of pressure on it is a good reason why people don’t stick with their New Years’ resolutions or workout plans. I find a plan to be beneficial, as I struggle with less structure. But things like walking, hiking, gardening, chores around the house, etc. are all examples of things we can do to be physical without needing new shoes and gym clothes. And aside from the physical health benefits, exercise helps fight mental health issues as well, so it’s a win-win.

Create

Another misconstrued idea is that we either aren’t creative or don’t possess the “right” creativity. We are all creative. We are all capable of creating. Because whether it’s writing, art, dance, cooking, organizing, photos of the dog, bedtime stories for our kids…the point is, anything we make is an expression of creativity. I intend to tap into that, beyond just writing. I want to learn different types of art, and I think I’d be good at the more physical arts that you use your hands for such as pottery or sculpting. But I won’t know unless I try.

Learn

The final piece is the one that ties everything together. I want to learn. I’ve always been curious and attempted to learn the things that interest me, but I’ve gotten away from that wonder that I had years ago. I got comfortable, but it’s time to go back. Any time I think I’ve figured something out or started to understand something, I learn new information. We live in a grey world where very little is black and white. Understanding that opens us up to an endless supply of learning opportunities. Capitalizing on those leads us to evolution and that’s what I’m most in search of, for everyone.

~

Some of these ideas are things that some people may not be concerned about. As I said before, I do think everyone is on their own path. But I know there’s some crossover and I think these are things that would be beneficial to most. I’ve got some concrete goals that I want to layout later, but I think these general goals are good avenues to start down.

~

Photo by Paul Gilmore on Unsplash

 

therapy

the oak doors loom heavy

large gateways to clarity

the therapist will see me now

my turn to lay prone

and stare through the perforated ceiling,

into the light, I begin

a babbling stream of consciousness

the trees providing counsel

when I stop, the wind starts

the leaves rattle but hold on

for every roadblock, a route around

every obstacle, a solution

and when my mind is at ease

and my debt paid

I leave, to experience more

for our next session

~

Photo by Katie Moum on Unsplash

 

An Ode to my Hometown: Healing

If you’re from Louisville and haven’t been to Jefferson Memorial Forest, you’re missing out. It’s just outside the city in Fairdale, and it’s absolutely stunning. There are parts where you can see downtown from the trail, but it’s still far enough out that you can get lost in the natural silence.

JMF Sun

It was also my healing place. Shortly after my rock bottom night, I was searching for something, anything to make sense. I struggled for a bit, but it was actually a podcast that opened my eyes a lot.

My boss at the time was a runner. Specifically, trail running. This was intriguing to me, namely because I hadn’t done any sort of sports since I was in high school. I was out of shape and had heard of all the health benefits, both physically and mentally, of running.

But I’m an over-planner. I needed more information, and podcasts were something that I had gotten into as an excellent way to digest information and keep up with current events. I went to the running section, and it was, to say the least, limited. It was 2011, after all. But one stuck out. The Rich Roll Podcast.

Rich Roll is an ultrarunner. He runs distances longer than a marathon, which at the time was an insane thought. But the running was last on his background that drew me to listen. Rich is a recovering alcoholic. He was overweight, struggling to get upstairs in his own home. He changed his life, including going to a plant-based diet. If Rich could do it, I could do it.

And in a lot of ways, I copied his blueprint. I learned more about plant-based diets and eventually adopted one. I started training, putting in the slow miles and short distances, building myself up. I learned about meditation and delved into that. I wanted to do everything I could to stop a backslide. I also acknowledge that it was my addictive personality manifesting itself in another outlet.

I was getting better. But I still had lessons to learn. I have been, and I would argue, still am to a lesser extent, a control freak. I didn’t like the feeling that I don’t at least have a say in what’s happening with my life. And being that we are literally specks on a giant orb hurtling through space, I suppose I was going to have to learn how to be comfortable in that existence. And that’s what the trail taught me.

By this point, I was running pretty strong. Not in any sort of race shape, but I could get up the hills without stopping. And there are a lot of them at Jefferson. I digress.

JMF Trail

I was nearing the end of a ten-mile run, and I honestly felt great. But my legs were heavy.  I’ve always been bad at picking my feet up, but that quickly changed. I knew the trails pretty well at this point, where all the awkward dips and steps were. But I wasn’t ready for the root that I stubbed the front of my shoe on.

Usually, when I trip, I’m able to catch myself and carry on. But this was a full-on front tumble, face in the dirt spill. I literally had dirt in my mouth. And once it was determined that I was ok, I felt something else, something that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I felt alive.

That momentary loss of control, when I was at my most vulnerable, I was finally able to feel the weight of everything in my life. Every terrible and good thing, flooding into my senses. It’s probably not unlike having your life flash before your eyes.

I was energized. I felt like I could get up and run another ten miles. It’s such a tiny moment in a life to have that sort of impact, but I remember it vividly. I know there were other contributing factors, but the shift I experienced from before and after this moment was so clear and defined. It was the first time that I felt I had repaired some of myself.

I started living my life in search of these moments. I’ve been slowly relinquishing control ever since, empowering the universe to guide me where I am supposed to be, rather than where I want to be.

This upcoming trip will be my big jump. My freefall into the abyss. I have a general idea of where I’m going, but there is no plan. No hard set date on when and where I’m stopping. No ties to anywhere. Just me, the road, and the universe.

JMF Trees

 

No Longer a Vegan

To anyone in the vegan community, please read the article before commenting. It won’t make everyone happy, but it will provide context.

~

Four years ago, I was in a really bad spot. My mental health was in the toilet, I was struggling to find meaning in life, and I was generally flailing. I had started running, both because I needed to get my health in check, and also because I wanted something that was just for me. It would give me time to think and spend some time coming to terms with myself.

I had learned about trail and ultrarunning from the Rich Roll Podcast (a podcast I still recommend to this day), and one of the other main topics on the show at that point was veganism. I knew literally nothing about being a vegan, but the benefits sounded pretty amazing. More energy, lower inflammation, positive impacts on the environment and the well-being of animals, in addition to my overall health? Sign me up.

But, like anything in life, there’s always a way to take something too far.

The radical vegan community has, from my experiences, been one of toxic one-upmanship, where they constantly deride the people around them. Either someone isn’t vegan, so fuck them, or they are, but they don’t do enough. Whether its that they aren’t vocal enough, still wear leather they bought 5 years ago, or eat vegan 99% of the time, but might have a vegetarian meal once a month. There’s always someone out there to make them mad and fuel their anger.

And the rest of us have to answer for it. No one is approaching the radical vegan and making bacon jokes or talking about how they could “never” give up cheese. Those people are “crazy” and they don’t actually want confrontation. So they find their less radical friends and make them feel like an outcast for trying to do better for themselves.

And honestly, I worry about those that take pleasure in saying those things to people over a lifestyle choice. Are you so broken in your own morality and bothered by what everyone else is doing that you feel the need to make fun of them? I have no problem with someone not eating how I eat, it’s the social superiority complex I have a problem with. Sometimes, adulthood is very much like high school.

So, I’m giving up. Both sides have worn me down to a point of no return.

I’m not giving up eating a plant-based diet. I even tried. I tried to have a piece of fish a few months ago and couldn’t even start to eat it.

But I won’t ever say the “v” word again. With my move coming up in a couple months, I’ll most likely end up in a place where literally no one knows who I am. Perfect. I know I’ll have to dance around some conversations, but I think an acceptable social answer to what my diet consists of is “I eat what I want.” I’m not lying, I just don’t want to eat meat, dairy, or eggs.

But you know what the best part of this decision is? I’m guilt-free. I don’t have to feel bad when my cravings for cheese come up at a party with no vegan options and I eat a single chip with melted cheese on it. Or when it’s someone’s birthday and I have a piece of cake. It’s happened. Many times. And every time, the inevitable question comes. “I thought you were vegan?” Sigh.

~

Everyone is on their own journey. I’ve said this since I made the switch 4 years ago. And sometimes, I fall off the wagon. I have some cheese or something with dairy in it. You know what’s unproductive and not helping anything? Giving up because I slipped up.

So many people start a diet, slip for one meal, or even one snack, and then just quit because they couldn’t do it. You’re on your journey. Keep going. It sucks falling off the wagon and having to train yourself to have more discipline. But if you keep getting back up and fighting, eventually, you’ll make it.

Don’t let anyone shame you for having those moments and figuring out your path. Because they have their own demons they’re trying to fight off as well.

So no, I’m not a vegan. I am my own person. I make the best decision I can at the time with the information I have. And if that isn’t good enough for you, then I hope you find peace in every single decision you make. I know I’m trying to.

~

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash